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Review Article

Cardioembolic Stroke: An Update

Roger E. Kelley, MD, Alireza Minagar, MD
Volume: 96 Issue: 4 April, 2003

Abstract:

Cardioembolic stroke accounts for approximately 15% of all strokes and is thought to be one of the more preventable types of strokes. Features that have been reported to support cardioembolism as a mechanism for ischemic stroke have included documented cardiac source of embolism, maximal neurologic deficit at onset, multiple cerebrovascular territories involved, enhanced tendency toward hemorrhagic transformation, enhanced risk of syncope or seizure associated with presentation, and lower likelihood of premonitory transient ischemic attacks. Features that tend to make cardioembolic stroke less likely include significant cerebral atherosclerosis, stepwise progression of the neurologic deficit within a finite period of time, vascular distribution such as entire internal carotid artery territory with combined middle cerebral artery and anterior cerebral artery involvement or watershed distribution, and premonitory transient ischemic attacks. A number of cardiac conditions can promote thromboembolism, and there is risk stratification reflective of the specific condition or coexistent conditions. Anticoagulant therapy generally has been found to be the most effective means of preventing cardiogenic brain embolism, but the intensity of anticoagulation needs to be optimized to reflect the risk-to-benefit ratio for the particular patient.

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